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Unia Leszno win 2020 PGE Ekstraliga Championship

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The victorious Unia Leszno team - Photo: Marcin Kubiak, PGE Ekstraliga
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Sparta Wroclaw thump Zielona Gora to take 3rd Place

After both first legs of Finals weekend ended in dramatic circumstances, the 2020 PGE Ekstraliga season reached its climax on Sunday, with all four teams in with a chance of ending the season with a victory. With Bartosz Zmarzlik, Maciej Janowski and Jaimon Lidsey all taking individual glories across the continent this year, it was time to see which teams could make a success of their season in the most competitive league in world Speedway.
Here’s how it all happened…

 

Sparta Wroclaw 50-40 Zielona Gora (Sparta Wroclaw win 82-77 to win bronze medal)
A solid team performance, spearheaded by the return to form of Australian Chris Holder, saw Sparta Wroclaw overturn a five-point deficit from the first leg to finish 2020 in 3rd place.

In the only change from the first leg, Zielona Gora’s Damian Pawliczak came in for the injured Norbert Krakowiak after the junior rider’s awkward crash on Friday which saw him leave the track in an ambulance.

Where the inside line is the usual preferred route in the early stages, a grippy line appeared around mid-track and outside early on and Martin Vaculik used it to perfection from the outside in heat three, slicing through the field like a hot knife through butter to keep the scores level. This was the start of a fantastic personal night for Slovakian number one, who went unbeaten right through the card to become just the second man this season to reach 18 points.

Heat five then saw Max Fricke (10+3) use the outside line to great effect after veteran Piotr Protasiewicz had pushed him wide; the Australian keeping the bike wound on to get around the outside before riding a good defensive line to ensure the first 5-1 of the meeting.

A pair of further maximums in the middle third saw Sparta Wroclaw open up their lead by an extra six points as they sought to take control. Chris Holder (14) showed the quality that saw him win the World Championship, winning his first three races, the last of which led Dan Bewley (8+2) in for the first of these 5-1s ahead of Patryk Dudek and Mateusz Tonder.

Heat 10 saw Max Fricke do a brilliant job of defending both the inside and outside line at the same time as the attack came from all angles in the opening stages but Dudek and Damian Pawliczak eventually relented, conceding a heat maximum which saw them fall ten points behind for the meeting. Most importantly though, it saw them go five points behind on aggregate with just five races remaining.

Two more maximums before the nominated races put the meeting result – and the location of the bronze medal – beyond all doubt as Zielona Gora’s miserable evening was compounded by Patryk Dudek’s engine failure in the early stages of heat 13, essentially handing Dariusz Sledz’ side the victory on a platter.

The defeated visitors put junior riders Mateusz Tonder and Damian Pawliczak out for heat 14 and in a turnup for the form book, took a creditable 4-2 heat advantage over Janowski and Bewley and it could have been even better for them were it not for Maciej Janowski’s (11+3) dogged effort to get past Pawliczak. All that then remained was for Martin Vaculik to complete his maximum, leading Piotr Protasiewicz in for a final 5-1 to maintain an air of dignity in their defeat.

Sparta Wroclaw 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total BP
C. Holder 3 3 3 2 3 0 14
P. Liszka
T. Woffinden Rider Replacement
M. Fricke 1 2 2* 2* 2* 1 10 3
M. Janowski 1* 2 1* 3 2* 2 11 3
G. Chuganov 2 1* 2 2 7 1
M. Curzytek 0 0 0 0
D. Bewley 2 2* 1* 3 0 8 2

 

Zielona Gora 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total BP
M. Jepsen Jensen 0 1 0 1
M. Vaculik 3 3 3 3 3 3 18
R. Tungate 2 0 0 1 3
P. Protasiewicz 3 1 0 1 2* 7 1
P. Dudek 0 1 1 DNF 2
D. Pawliczak 3 0 0 1 4
M. Tonder 1 0 1 3 5

 

Heat Running Order Time Score
Heat 1 Holder, Tungate, Fricke, Jepsen Jensen 63.48s (4-2)
Heat 2 Pawliczak, Chuganov, Tonder, Curzytek 63.17s (6-6)
Heat 3 Vaculik, Fricke, Janowski, Dudek 62.42s (9-9)
Heat 4 Protasiewicz, Bewley, Chuganov, Pawliczak 62.51s (12-12)
Heat 5 Holder, Fricke, Protasiewicz, Tungate 62.80s (17-13)
Heat 6 Vaculik, Janowski, Jepsen Jensen, Curzytek 62.35s (19-17)
Heat 7 Holder, Bewley, Dudek, Tonder 62.66s (24-18)
Heat 8 Vaculik, Chuganov, Janowski, Protasiewicz 62.75s (27-21)
Heat 9 Vaculik, Holder, Bewley, Jepsen Jensen 62.76s (30-24)
Heat 10 Janowski, Fricke, Dudek, Pawliczak 62.75s (35-25)
Heat 11 Holder, Fricke, Protasiewicz, Tungate 63.21s (40-26)
Heat 12 (Re-run) Vaculik, Chuganov, Tonder, Curzytek 62.52s (42-30)
Heat 13 Bewley, Janowski, Tungate, Dudek (dnf) 63.11s (47-31)
Heat 14 Tonder, Janowski, Pawliczak, Bewley 62.84s (49-35)
Heat 15 Vaculik, Protasiewicz, Fricke, Holder 62.99s (50-40)
Referee Pawel Slupski

 

Unia Leszno 59-30 Stal Gorzow (Unia Leszno win 103-76 to win Championship)
Unia Leszno won their fourth consecutive Ekstraliga title with a thumping 59-30 victory over a hopeless Stal Gorzow side who were unable to make use of their two-point lead from the first leg in the face of total dominance.

Leszno’s home form has been mightily impressive all season long – their last defeat on home shale coming in 2017 – and they were quick to assert their authority over Stanislaw Chomski’s men.

With rain also in the air at the Alfred Smoczyk Memorial stadium, gating well was a must and while Bartosz Smektala (13+1) didn’t make it as well as his captain Emil Sayfutdinov (11), he was visibly faster than both Gorzow openers, making his way easily around the outside for an opening heat maximum. The writing truly on the wall early…

The visitors did briefly hold a 5-1 in heat four following two more gate-to-tapes home advantages but before Zmarzlik could take his customary opening victory, Janusz Kolodziej (6+1) found another gear. He zipped up the inside of the world champion before ruthlessly hunting down early leader Rafal Karczmarz (8) to take a share of the heat.

It took until heat six for Stal Gorzow to notch a race win; Jack Holder sending the bike wide to defend from Dominik Kubera (6+2) before classily diving up the inside of Piotr Pawlicki to take one of just three race winners the visitors racked up all evening. Anders Thomsen, while on the pace of both Sayfutdinov and Kolodziej for the whole race, was ultimate powerless to prevent his side going 18 points down at the halfway point, arguably the time where the contest was over.

Dejection for Stal Gorzow but they can be very proud of what they’ve accomplished in 2020
Photo: Marcin Kubiak, PGE Ekstraliga

Bartosz Zmarzlik, having not been at all at the races, looked to have his evening in order again as he passed Piotr Pawlicki (11+1) for the lead in heat eight but the home number five came back him fiercely on lap three, allowing the bike to drift wide on the final corner, squeezing Zmarzlik wide as he glided past the world champion, who simply could not get his bike setup right.
With more than a dozen overtaking manoeuvres and all four riders leading at different points of the race, heat nine was arguably the race of the entire season, which ended with Unia Leszno opening a 20-point lead on the night for the first time and while Gorzow finally recorded a heat advantage immediately afterwards, the title would be wrapped up with an air of embarrassment from the visitors’ point of view.

Jack Holder (6) rode brilliantly to defend Zmarzlik’s initial lead but at the end of the third lap, a bike malfunction caused him to come down in unceremonious fashion and then in the re-run, Zmarzlik knocked Jaimon Lidsey (7+2) to the floor in trying to take him wide. His exclusion meant that the unopposed 5-0 took them over the hill and into the books as league champions again.
Not the way the Wolves would have wanted to win it, but their victory was further celebrated as team reserve Kacper Pludra was nominated for heat 14 and with some fantastic defensive riding from partner Pawlicki, he went and won it…in yet another 5-1.

Worthy champions for 2020 then; Leszno’s 18th league title and their 5th in six years taken against the last side to beat them in a Grand Final and without drastic team changes throughout the league, you wouldn’t bet against them doing it again in 2021.

Unia Leszno 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total BP
E. Sayfutdinov 3 3 3 2 11
J. Kolodziej 3 2* 1 6 1
B. Smektala 2* 3 2 3 3 13 1
J. Lidsey 2* 2* 0 3 7 2
P. Pawlicki 3 2 3 1 2* 11 1
S. Szlauderbach 1 0 0 1 2
D. Kubera 3 1* 2* 0 6 2
K. Pludra 3 3

 

Stal Gorzow 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Total BP
K. Kasprzak 1 0 1
J. Holder 1 3 2 X 6
S. Wozniak 0 1 1* 3 2 7 1
B. Zmarzlik 1* 0 2 0 X 3 1
A. Thomsen 0 1 1 2* 1 5 1
R. Karczmarz 2 2 0 3 1 0 8
W. Jasinski 0 0 0 0

 

Heat Running Order Time Score
Heat 1 Sayfutdinov, Smektala, Kasprzak, Wozniak 62.10s (5-1)
Heat 2 Kubera, Karczmarz, Szlauderbach, Jasinski 62.50s (9-3)
Heat 3 Pawlicki, Lidsey, Holder, Thomsen 62.13s (14-4)
Heat 4 Kolodziej, Karczmarz, Zmarzlik, Szlauderbach 62.69s (17-7)
Heat 5 Smektala, Lidsey, Wozniak, Zmarzlik 62.25s (22-8)
Heat 6 Holder, Pawlicki, Kubera, Kasprzak 62.59s (25-11)
Heat 7 Sayfutdinov, Kolodziej, Thomsen, Karczmarz 62.91s (30-12)
Heat 8 Pawlicki, Zmarzlik, Wozniak, Szlauderbach 63.13s (33-15)
Heat 9 Sayfutdinov, Holder, Kolodziej, Zmarzlik 62.91s (37-17)
Heat 10 Karczmarz, Smektala, Thomsen, Lidsey 63.12s (39-21)
Heat 11 (Re-run) Lidsey, Sayfutdinov, Zmarzlik (exc.), Holder (exc.) 62.28s (44-21)
Heat 12 Smektala, Kubera, Karczmarz, Jasinski 63.10s (49-22)
Heat 13 Wozniak, Thomsen, Pawlicki, Kubera 63.56s (50-27)
Heat 14 Pludra, Pawlicki, Thomsen, Jasinski 64.13s (55-28)
Heat 15 Smektala, Wozniak, Szlauderbach, Karczmarz 63.28s (59-30)
Referee Krzysztof Meyze

Note – BP= Bonus Points, scored when following a team-mate over the finish line (Cannot be scored if finishing last in the race)

 

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Unia Leszno win 2020 PGE Ekstraliga Championship.’ What did you make of Leszno’s performance? Let us know!

 

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Working as a matchday data statistician and editor for Newport City Radio, I can't get enough of football. Dedicated to bringing fresh perspective and passionate opinion on the hot topics, I love hearing what the fans have to say. While a general follower of all sports, my alternate real loves are for Speedway and Tenpin Bowling. Follow me on @DanielFrazer7 on Twitter to chat all things sport!

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